Odd Bits

In which I consider the nature of primary sources, with a little despair

April 25, 2015

My primary academic home is the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,* periods in which primary sources and material artifacts are relatively abundant. As a result, the question of whether something counts as a primary source is generally clear–at least in terms of a given sources’s temporal relationship to the event/period in question.** (How we […]

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Running on Railroad Time

April 21, 2015

I was recently reading an excellent new book on the Battle of Waterloo* in which the author made an off-hand comment about the difficulty of synchronizing accounts even when sources give exact times for events because there was no standardized time. Until the rise of the railroads in the mid-nineteenth century, time was essentially local. […]

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From the Archives: When Is A Pirate Not A Pirate?

March 14, 2015

I currently have my head down trying to finish a big project that I’m excited about. Instead of driving myself crazy trying to write blog posts at the same time or, worse, “going dark” I’ll be running some of my favorite posts from the past for the next little while. Enjoy. And I’ll see you […]

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In Manchuria

February 25, 2015

Michael Meyer’s In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland And The Transformation of Rural China is a beautifully written blend of memoir, travel account, history and social commentary. In 2011, Meyer moved to his Chinese wife’s hometown–a Manchurian village with what proved to be the inappropriate name of Wasteland. He had lived in Beijing for several […]

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Woodrow Wilson in Love

February 14, 2015

In honor of Valentine’s day, I want to share one of my favorite stories about President Woodrow Wilson, reported by Secret Service agent Edmund Starling in his memoir of the Wilson White House:* En route to his honeymoon destination with his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the president was seen dancing a jig by […]

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Let Them Eat Cake?

January 16, 2015

Today we’re going to take a little side trip from French Algeria to think about grain*, thanks to Paul Hancq, who responded to my recent attempts to convert the price of an eighteenth century grain purchase into modern American dollars with the comment, “At any rate, that is a LOT of expensive grain!” He’s right. […]

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In which I recommend some of my favorite history blogs

January 5, 2015

Working on the assumption that if you enjoy History in the Margins you might enjoy other history blogs, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites for your reading pleasure. Some appear every day. Some appear on a schedule known only to their creators. All of them are blogs that I greet with glee […]

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Another Year of History Ahead of Us

January 2, 2015

It’s a new year, which for history buffs means not only the chance to make changes moving forward but also the chance to look toward the past with a different focus.  A new period.  A new theme.  A new set of questions.  Or at least a bunch of new books about old stuff to read. […]

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There Was and There Was Not

December 16, 2014

As I’ve mentioned in the past, historical subjects sometimes track me down, screaming “learn more about me, dagnabbit!” Over the last few years, the Armenian genocide *–and the controversies surrounding the existence of that genocide in modern Turkey–has been tracking me down in an on-again off-again way. I first became aware of the genocide, and […]

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And we have a winner! (Two, actually)

December 6, 2014

Thanks to all of you who took the time to throw your names in to the medium size mixing bowl to win a copy of Chris West’s A History of America in 36 Postage Stamps or his earlier foray into history through philately. As always when I do a give-away, I learn something from your […]

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